Saturday, 30 November 2013

Toubkal Winter Acsent

On leaving the Sahara after spending the last week trekking with camels through the dunes, I drove over the Atlas Mountains to Marrakech meeting our next group who had come to Morooco to climb North Africa's highest mountain Mt Toubkal.

Before making our way into foothills of the Atlas and the village of imlil we had time to for a qiuck lunch in the Fma El Fna which is a world famous square in the old city of Marrakech and a complete sensory overload. 
Leaving the hustle and bustle of Marrkaech behind we made our way towards the High Altas passing through mud brick Berber villages where little has changed for centuries winding our way slowly to Imlil the main stopover for anyne looking to climb Toubkal.
After a good nights sleep plenty of great Moroccan food we loaded up our mules and headed for the hills and the Neltner Refuge at 3200m and our Toubkal base camp.
It took us a 7 hours in total climbing 1400m, normally during March Toubkal refuge is buzzing with groups from all over Europe mainline ski - touring, but this year we've had very little snow, so winter conditions haven't been great.

We began our climb of Mt Toubkal around 7am climbing slowly out of the refuge making our way up the South Cwm sticking to the snow as much as possible avoiding removing our crampons, by 09.00am the sun had finally hit us and it was warming up quickly in fact I think temperatures hit around 23 by mid day.
This made our climb really tough with high temperatures the snow melting which meant we kept falling through the snow, plus the glare from the sun it was a tough climb, 
We made it the summit all very short of breath bit rewarded with stunning views, I must admit this must  have been something like my 30th Toubkal summit and I never tire of the summit views.

We're now down at the Refuge enjoying a mint tea and all feeling very pleased with our day.
Tomorrow we head back down to imlil for hot showers and more great food, then it Marrakech time!

Friday, 15 November 2013

Sahara Explorer Trek

Leaving Ouarzazate early morning in our 4x4's we made our way southeast into the Moroccan Sahara to begin our 5 day camel trek in the little visited area of the desert between Zagora and Mazouga.
It took us 5hrs driving through the Draa Valley before turning off road and time for some 4x4 driving into the desert to meet up with our camels and nomad guides.
It tooks us some time to locate our camels, finally meeting up at the only large scrub land for miles.
On arrival we set up camp and waved good bye to our 4x4's, from now on we would traveling by foot and camel travelling as the nomadic tribes of Sahara have done for centuries, completely self sufficient and one with the desert.

Our first nights camp under the endless canopy of stars passed peacefully, we woke early morning to fresh mint tea Moroccan style loaded with sugar. After breakfast with the camels all loaded up with our kit and a good supply of water it was time to hit the desert as we crossed the first of many dune belts, after eating lunch in the shade of a small tree the afternoon trek was to take us a across a huge salt flats with the mountains of Ait Tamgharte ahead of us and our planned camp for night.
The crossing of any large expanse of open land such as the salt flats in the Sahara your camp always looks very close, however the camp never seems to get any closer even after hours of walking and it begins to feel like your in some kind of Monty Python sketch that when you finally arrive at camp you discover it's a miniature model.
We finally reached the other side of the salt flats just on sunset where a nomadic family had settled for the winter months to graze their goats, on arrival at the camp the head of the family very kindly invited us for mint tea before offering us a place to sleep for the night in their spare tent which was used to store rice and bedding for passing travellers.
Unable to turn down our hosts plus the opportunity to spend the night with a Berber nomadic family was an offer we couldn't turn down and felt very honoured to be invited into the families home for night. 
The following days route was through the Ait Tamgharte mountains a total of 24km was a tough day with really rocky terrain underfoot and very little shade, although we made good time and managed to arrive into camp late afternoon, camp was situated in a beautiful oasis at the entrance to a gorge, our reward for a long tough day trekking was a shower and old drinks from the local auberge. 
Deciding to spend a night under stars rather than the tent is always one my highlights to being in the Sahara with the night skies glittered with stars to the horizon and waking to a spectacular sunrise all from your sleeping is must if you ever visit the Sahara.

We had 5 camels with us to carry all equipment for the entire group but as the days passed one of the young camels began to slow down due to the pace and distance we where covering, so we needed an extra camel to help out, some how out of know where one of our camel guides returned in the morning with a new camel, we where told his name was Columbus, we were saved.
The following two days trekking took us across the Hamada and through a huge dune belt before finally arriving at a small village which farmed huge amounts Henna, walking through the village and seeing how people live in such an arid place where in the summer months temperatures can reach up to 50c was fascinating. 
Our final night in the desert was spent relaxing under the stars with a well deserved glass of wine and olives complete desert decadence.
The following morning we said farewell to our camels and guides before making the 4x4 journey through the Dades Valley also known as the Valley of a Thousand Kasbars and onto Ouarzazate for a hot shower and cold beer.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Malawi & Zambia Cycle

Lilongwe to Lusaka 

It was soon time to hit the road on again, this time I teamed up with some friends from the U.K. and our plan was to cycle 1300km from Liliongwe to Livingstone in Zambia in 10 days at the hottest time of year, it was reportedly 40c in Lwangwa valley the challenge was on.
Leaving Lilongwe at 5am we made our way southwest to the Zambia border a total of 150km on good roads with very little traffic, we arrived in bustling  town of Chipatta on the Zambian border at 4pm just in time to shop for supplies as the following days cycling would be fairly remote with little opportunity for resupply.
Cycling between the hours of 5-9am was my favourite time on the road with the sun rising, villages coming to life with locals heading to market or collecting water from the nearest well.
Every morning I'd always end up racing someone on there way to market with a pig or bags of charcoal strapped to the bike or a young boy on his way school riding on a bike way to big for him.
It was a 575km from Chipatta town along the Great East Road to the Zambian capital Lusaka, our first full day cycling in Zambia we managed a distance of around 120km which was our minimum daily target. The cycling conditions were tough going with temperatures reaching the mid 30's by mid morning with some long hill climbs.
We passed through a number small towns on the first 200km which allowed us to stock up on supplies and enjoy much needed cold drinks.

Our first nights accommodation since leaving Chipatta was in the small village of Sinda, we opted to camp at the Sinda Hotel, which  was basically a truckers brothel with no electricity or running water, somehow I think a bush camp would have been a better option.
As we continued eastward we were nearing the Lwangwa Valley with temperatures reportedly reaching 40c and some huge hills in and out of the valley, this was the section of the ride I knew would be my big test, Our plan of attack was to cycle 110km in the morning reach the Lwangwa valley and then chill in the shade until late afternoon as the climb out of the valley would be killer.
The Great East road is a major transit route for trucks and buses into Malawi and at times they would come flying past us doing at least 100km, you had two options at this point stick to your guns and stay on the road risking everything or drop off the road into the ditch this all made for some heart thumping moments.
Arriving at Lwangwa valley we found shade under the usual mango tree ate and slept waiting for the temperatures to drop before continuing out of the valley and finding a roadside bush camp. The remaining section of the route into Lusaka passing through the Lower Zambezi National Park did ease as we neared the capital.
Unfortunately for me my left knee began to give up, so much so I ended up cycling only with my right leg, I'd pushed too hard on he early stages of the ride, the rest of the group were pulling ahead of me and I was only getting slower and the pain was increasing. Feeling really fed up and annoyed at myself I decided to end the ride and hitch to Lusaka.
From the moment we decided to do the ride I never thought id not make it due to injury my only concern was if we had enough time, so leaving the ride left me very disappointed. 
The rest of team continued to Livingstone, Bob, Geoff and Russell managed to complete the ride 1250km in 9 days which is some going, Danny and Claire arrived into livingstone the following day. 
It was great to all join up again and share stories.
Cycling through Africa is a wonderful experience, never at any point did we feel intimidated in fact it was quite the opposite and overwhelmingly friendly.
Getting out the open road stopping in small villages, meeting wonderful friendly people, bush camping, huge hill climbs and the non stop cheering from the children made the trip an adventure of a life time.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Malawi Cycle

Malawi cycle 

Returning to Malawi after nearly 10 years, I was super stoked to be returning, my plan was to cycle from Liliongwe to just south of Chincheche to Kande Beach, a total of 350km, which would be the perfect warm up ride for our trans Zambia cycle.

On leaving Liliongwe I was on a high to be finally on the bike and hitting the road, although a little apprehensive due to the fact it was the first time I'd ever done any cycle touring.
Leaving Lilongwe the capital of Malawi early morning avoiding the heavy traffic it soon became apparent I was in for a tough ride, the heat was 30+ by 9.30am and climbing the escarpment before dropping down to lake Malawi in the Rift Valley was a tough day, at one police check the Officers insisted I stop cycling and take shelter as it was to hot, once I dropped down into the Rift Valley the temperatures increased and the cycling hit a level.. 

Day 1: I cycled 107km into Salima after finding a bed for the night I had time for some food shopping at market and early night.

Day 2: an early start as I decided to cycle before the day got stupidly hot, hitting the road by 5 was perfect with the air reasonably cool and the African sun slowly rising I was buzzing, finally back in Sub-Saharan Africa and on the open road. I made a few stops mid morning village stops and soon realised why Malawi is known as the Warm Heart of Africa, I never for one minute felt any danger other than the odd crazy bus, but everyone I met roadside were incredibly friendly and interested in what I was doing and more importantly why ? 
The constant shouts of Mzungu and the kids sprinting to the roadside screaming and shouting was great fun, children would line the road on seeing me, dancing and singing so excited to see me cycling past it was a huge amount fun.
The word Mzungu which is used throughout East/Central Africa is the term used for a white man, although the originally comes from the meaning to wonder around in circles, when the first 18th century explores first came to Africa the local villages thought it was the same person walking in circles.

Day 3: I had Kande in my sights only 150 - 160km away so I decided to nail it get to Kande chill and party, today was to prove one of my toughest days due to heat in Central Malawi and holy hell was it hot, I managed to find bananas today which was a great treat as there wasn't much in the way of food supplies in Malawi, I just ate noodles for the first 3 days and I just have drank 9lts of water on day 3 and still never pee'd. At 18.00 I made it to Kande Beach after 13hrs totally exhausted and burnt to a crisp, I can tell you the first 2 beers were heaven, I now had 8 days at Kande to chill out on the lake before the next ride from Lilongwe to Lusaka in Malawi.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Gorge Walking Wales

It's been hot summer so what better than cooling off by jumping into rivers and swimming amongst some of the most stunning waterfalls in the UK.
Here's a little taster of what we've been up to this summer in the Gorge.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Costa Rica Coast to Coast Challenge

It's a busy old year with lots of new adventures with our Costa Rica Coast to Coast Challenge in May which has to be the best multi activity challenge out there, starting on Pacific Coast cycling, trekking, white water rafting and finally canoeing into the Caribbean, some of the hills climbs were hideous, one in particular was 14km long and took 1.5hrs to finish, but it was worth all the hard work as the down hill section on dirt was just awesome, flying down the hills with your arms and legs burning holding on for dear life was a heart pumping buzz.
White water rafting down the Pucare River one of the top 10 rivers in world, rafting through deep jungle gorges with the odd grade 4 rapid just to make sure you weren't day dreaming. We stopped overnight in the Jungle Lodge and partied the night away, then the next day was a huge day rafting Wacas 1 & Wacas 11 both knarly rapids with huge holes.
Exhausted and on a huge high we canoed the final leg down the Pacure into Caribbean.
Completing the Coast to Coast Challenge has to be one of the hardest and most challenging events I've done in a long time, but it was worth all the pain on those huge hills climb.
Bring on May 2014 so we can do it all over again.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Mt Elgon Uganda

Our African Adventure has begun, flying over lake Victoria into Entebbe, then over night in Kampala.
We're currently fighting our way through the hustle and bustle of Kampala in rush hour traffic.

It's a sensory overload the clients are buzzing, the streets of Kampala our in full swing, as we make our way through street hawkers selling Chinese junk, millions of bannanna stalls and crazy motor bike taxis.

Our plan for today is to cross the source of the Nile, then visit two fields of life projects, which two of our clients are looking to sponsor and possibly build a school, the villages are expecting us, I can't wait it's going to be a very emotional day.

Our day will end on arrival at Mbale, then it's time to pack our kit and begin our trek of Mt Elgon.

Adventure all the way

Mt Elgon Uganda

Our African Adventure has begun, flying over lake Victoria into Entebbe, then over night in Kampala.
We're currently fighting our way through the hustle and bustle of Kampala in rush hour traffic.

It's a sensory overload the clients are buzzing, the streets of Kampala our in full swing, as we make our way through street hawkers selling Chinese junk, millions of bannanna stalls and crazy motor bike taxis.

Our plan for today is to cross the source of the Nile, then visit two fields of life projects, which two of our clients are looking to sponsor and possibly build a school, the villages are expecting us, I can't wait it's going to be a very emotional day.

Our day will end on arrival at Mbale, then it's time to pack our kit and begin our trek of Mt Elgon.

Adventure all the way

Monday, 3 June 2013

Costa Rica - Coast 2 Coast Done !

I'm sat on our bus heading back to San Jose in Costa Rica.
We left here 10 days ago about to embark on what we expected to be a truly tough challenge and we got everything and more than expected.

We cycled, trekked, white water raft and canoed from the Pacific to the Caribbean a total of 297km, this will now go down as the toughest trip on our website and most definitely my favourite. If your looking for a challenge with something to push your limits and visit one of the exciting countries on the planet, put May 2nd 2014 into your calendar and join us next year for another Costa Rican Adventure.

The full trip blog and video will be online soon.
Adventure Rocks !

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Stop the clocks !

I'm whizzing down the M56 on my way to Manchester airport as I'm about take on our coast to coast challenge in Costa Rica, it's 4.30am I'm feeling a little spun out as I only returned from a month in Sumartra two days ago, this has to be the best job in the world, taking on amazing challenges with great people looking for adventure.

Wether its Costa Rica or the 3 Peaks Challenge life is all about adventure meeting new friends and pushing your limits and that includes a 4.30am start to the airport, in fact flying has to be one of my biggest challenge along with airports they have to be least favourite part of going on a new adventure.

Time waits for no man, so get out and explore, test yourself, learn new things and meet great people it's a great world that we live in, so switch off the computer get out and have fun and maybe we will see you this summer on a new challenge.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Actions speak louder than words

Just returned from an amazing trip in Ecuador as you will see from the video, If you looking for a challenge closer to home check out out 3 Peaks Challenge or Mt Toubkal trip if you feel the need for altitude.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

3 Peaks Challenge 2013

They say time flies when your having fun, January has flown by and the 3 Peaks Challenge 2013 is proving to be popular once again and for good reason, the 3 Peaks Challange is the ultimate UK's 24hr mountain challenge.
Climbing all three national peaks in 24hrs is a tough challenge, but personally if you ask me, I'd say being in the minibus during the long drives with a lack of sleep has to be the toughest part of the challenge, OK getting out of the bus after a 6 hour drive is not a pleasurable experience, but once on the hill with the legs warmed up, its always a joy to be on the mountain and out of the minibus, then again when making your way off Ben Nevis or Scafell all you want to see is the bus, relax and have a cuppa tea.

Which ever you prefer the mountain or the bus, the 3 Peaks Challenge offers a truely fantastic challenge that will test you to the limit.

Don't just talk about it, DO IT !

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Mt Elgon and The Source of Nile (Uganda)

Flying into Entebbe over the shores of Lake Victoria and seeing the lush tropical vegetation below, It finally began to feel my Ugandan adventure was about to begin, whizzing through customs which is something I’m not accustomed to with Africa was a blessing.

My first port of call was to be the thriving East African capital of Kampala, getting to Kampala on a Dala Dala or commonly known as crammed minibus with slick tyres, cracked windscreen and holes in the floor was the perfect way to start any adventure in Africa, for all of 1$ my nerve shattering journey took me from Entebbe to the hustle and bustle of Kampala, arriving in Kampala and find my accommodation was in fact a very simple task, simply get out of the fun bus and jump on the a back of a doba doba which is a motor bike taxi, with a 70ltr pack on my back while sat on the back of a motor bike whizzing through the chaotic Kampala traffic made the minibus journey feel like orient express, It was a huge buzz even if it was a little suicidal, I finally arrived at the Shalom Guest House which is run by Fields Of Live, a charity that does a huge amount of great work in Uganda building Schools and putting wells in the rural areas of Uganda.

The reason for this trip was in fact to do some research for a charity climb up Mt Elgon on the Eastern Borders of Uganda, all the money raised from the trek will go to support The Fields of Life continue their work in Uganda.
After a few meetings Kampala it was time to head to Mbale and begin the trek, leaving Kampala and finding the correct bus in what is described as the largest taxi & bus station if you can call it that in East Africa was a mission, then good old African timing after sitting on the bus for 2hrs we finally left for Mbale, the inflight entertainment came from a man claiming to be a doctor selling all sorts of wonderful potions that could just about heal anything.
Finally arriving in Mbale which is the largest town in Eastern Uganda I found myself a humble place to sleep then headed out to explore, which ended up with me sitting in front a huge outdoor TV screen watching WWF wrestling with a cold Nile Special Beer, only to discover after about 4 beers it was 5.9% so of course it was a short wobble home after a quick stop off for some good old street food, why does street food smell , taste and seem like a good idea after a few cheeky beers.

I was woken early morning to the sound of Mbale town going about it’s daily business and buses blowing their musical air horns right outside my window, it was going to be another great day in Uganda, looking out my hotel window I was rewarded with clear blue skies and Mt Elgon in the distance, Eric had arrived from Moshi in Tanzania to join me on the trek, both Eric and I have climbed Kilimanjaro over 8 times together, he’d left Moshi 2 days earlier but in true African style his bus broke down in the night somewhere in Kenya, It was good to hear that we both had epic journeys getting Mbale and compared notes.
Leaving Mbale behind we made our way to Budabiri the start of of trail, arriving the remote town of Budabiri we shopped for food supplies with what was available in the village, had a quick beer  in  local. Our accommodation for the night was Rosie’s, If you ever come to climb Mt Elgon I would highly recommend you stop here, Mama Rosie is like your Ugandan mum you never through you had, Rosie is such a lovely lady and so hospitable, we were well feed and watered for the following day.

We began our trek on the SASA Route skipping day one and climbing straight up to an altitude of 3500mt, passing through small villages on route before entering the park, we trekked through lush rain forest, bamboo forest until reaching high altitude alpine plants, our was in Mudde C amp.
The following morning we made a quick ascent to Wagagai peaks at 4321mt, the climb was relevantly easy its long a long climb in terms of distance.

The following we decided to skip a day and trek 2 days in one covering 30km and boy was a killer of a day, the morning was fairly easy going with great views, Mt Elgon feels more like a mountain range than a single extinct volcano. The afternoon was a completely different matter with plenty of steep climbs followed by steep decents, with a 15kg bag on your back it was tough going, plus the average temperature was 35c.

Our final day was a short 15km into the town of Sipi with its three huge waterfalls each over 70mts in height. saying good bye to our Rangers who were amazing guides on the mountain incredibly helpful and now very good friends and part the the Adventurous Ewe family who will be joining us in June when we climb Mt Elgon once again, overall Mt Elgon is beauty of a trek, very little people visit mountain, passing through villages and stunning trekking through a vast mixture of landscapes, I would say its been one of my most memorable trips in a long time.

Eric went back to Moshi in Tanzania and I and still currently in Jinja and the Source of the Nile, which is East Africa's Adrenaline Centre.
So watch this space as were going to be lauching an amazing trip with plenty of Adventure in an absolutle gem of an African country Uganda.

I now head off to Kampala which is going to be a huge change from the peaceful days on Mt Elgon and the Nile.